perkins&will selected to design the smithsonian's bezos learning center in washington

perkins&will selected to design the smithsonian's bezos learning center in washington

Smithsonian picks Perkins&Will to design Bezos Learning Center


Architecture firm Perkins&Will has been chosen to design the Bezos Learning Center at the National Air and Space Museum, one of the Smithsonian’s most popular institutions. The global architecture practice was selected among five shortlisted firms based on its extensive experience in designing cultural and educational spaces, the qualifications of its management team, as well as its unique aesthetic approach. Located on the prominent National Mall in Washington, D.C., the Bezos Learning Center design draws inspiration from the spiral shape of a galaxy, incorporating learning areas, exhibition spaces, a public observatory, and a restaurant, all thoughtfully designed to create a captivating and educational environment.


‘The spiral galaxy—our source of creative inspiration—is all about infinite possibilities,’ shares Ralph Johnson, design director for Perkins&Will and lead designer for the Bezos Learning Center conceptual approach and vision. ‘We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Smithsonian Institution, the National Air and Space Museum, and other key stakeholders to create a design that will inspire the next generation of air and space explorers while honoring the historical context of our National Mall.’

perkins&will selected to design the smithsonian's bezos learning center in washington
the inspiration for this Bezos Learning Center is a spiral galaxy | image via National Air and Space Museum



a place for exploration


The Bezos Learning Center, located at the renowned National Air and Space Museum, will serve as a captivating hub for learners, inviting them to embark on a journey of discovery through the vast realms of aviation and the universe. With a focus on immersive STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning, the center will offer a range of multi-day experiences that transcend traditional classrooms. Within the center, learners will have access to innovative spaces designed to foster collaboration, creativity, and hands-on learning. Non-traditional classrooms, collaboration hubs, and a dedicated studio will provide the ideal environment for learners to engage with interactive workshops, participate in design challenges, and showcase their work in dedicated display areas.


‘As one of the largest and most visited aerospace museums in the world, the National Air and Space Museum influences millions of visitors every year,’ says Bridget Lesniak, managing principal at Perkins&Will (find more here). ‘The Bezos Learning Center represents the next major evolution of the museum’s mission, continuing a journey set in motion by the Wright Brothers almost 120 years ago. This is an exceptional opportunity to create a place that unlocks the potential of a new generation of explorers.’

perkins&will selected to design the smithsonian's bezos learning center in washington
view of the Learning Courtyard | image via National Air and Space Museum



opening in 2027


‘Having worked with the architects behind the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I understand how important a building’s design is to its mission, its functionality, its character and its ability to engage the people who enter its doors,’ said Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III. ‘We look forward to working with the architects of Perkins&Will on the design of the Bezos Learning Center to produce another unique Smithsonian landmark on the National Mall that will expand and enhance our educational impact.’


The Smithsonian (find more here) will work closely with Perkins&Will on the design of the center with construction anticipated to begin in 2025, although a construction firm has not yet been selected. During the design phase, the Smithsonian will conduct Section 106 historic preservation consultation and seek approvals from the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The Institution will continue to consult with other agencies including the National Park Service. Interested parties will have the opportunity to participate in design consultation and provide comments through the Section 106 process. The building is anticipated to open in 2027.

perkins&will selected to design the smithsonian's bezos learning center in washington
site plan | image via National Air and Space Museum


masterplan | image courtesy of Perkins&Will

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